Heritage

Cyprus – Did the British transfer land from Turkish to Greek owners?


Did the British transfer large

chunks of land from Turkish to

Greek owners?

By Ismail Veli

Much talk on the property ownership in Cyprus has been debated, disputed and each side claims to be in the right. The Greek side often uses the difference in population ratio of 80% GC to 20% TC, in fact one sometimes gets the impression that the Greek side would readily accept a 2 state solution if the Turkish side were to concede land in proportion to the relative populations.

The Turkish side on the other hand often presents the percentage of landownership in the 1960 census and cites its legal rights to a percentage of state owned land which often brings Robert Armitage Percival Governor of Cyprus between 2the percentage to over 29+. This it seems has already been agreed in principle by the GC leaders but rarely if ever do they have the courage to discuss the matter openly.

In order to reinforce their point of view the Turkish side often refers to the confiscation of Turkish land during Britain’s Colonial rule in favour of the Greek side. There is no doubt that due to historical friendly ties with the Greek people the British may have looked much more favourably on the Christian GCs as opposed to the decaying Ottoman Empire.

The question is however “did the British assist or turn a blind eye to the transfer of large chunks of land from Turkish to Greek owners”? The answer seems to be “YES”. Just a short list given below will show that during a thirty year period alone a total 36840 Donums of land were for one reason or another passed over to the GC population.

The source is from the Colonial reports of Surridge (1930 by Brewster J Surridge at the time District Commissioner of Larnaca) and Robert Armitage Percival Governor of Cyprus between 1954-25 September 1955. Just as striking is that the Farming minister in charge of land distribution in Cyprus between 1895-1900 was a Mr Gennadius (A GC) and subsequent posts during the period in question were all Greek Cypriots. In addition many of the money lenders were GC bankers and businessmen.

The analysis below marked in red is from the archives of Surridge’s Rural Survey published in 1929 and researched by Ahmet Gazioglu in April 1977

“The main method of forcing poor farmers to sell their land at knockdown prices was the exorbitant interest rates applied to loans. Often the farmers were unable to pay what today would be considered as “loan sharks”. As the loans were always given on the security of their land then it does not take a genius to work out the consequences.

This was confirmed in a report by the “Colonial REPORTS-Cyprus 1922, s:26”. It seems one of the most ruthless methods was that the size of the donum’s were also “doctored” from their original measure to 66% of their size.

In effect any farm at 30 Donums would be calculated at 20. This piece of property scandal would originate from the the fact that during the Ottoman period the differential between a “farm Donum” and “urban donum” was abandoned.

In effect if a farmer declared that he had 20 “farm Donums” a survey would later be carried out using the urban measure which in effect was used as a legal means of forcing the farmer to accept that he only owned 13.2 donums, therefore the money lenders would pay the poor illiterate farmers a knockdown price forcing many into bankruptcy and migration to Turkey.”

While many argue that ancestral homes are a birthright to be passed on to future generations it would be well to remember that this is not exclusive to one community only. The evidence is pretty clear that the Turkish Cypriots were also victims of property loss as a result of land grabs and transfers during British rule. Of course some would argue that’s in the past and we need to look forward. No doubt that would be the sensible approach, but this principle needs to be universal for all Cypriots.

There are many people who dish out propaganda based on the revision of history by burning the pages they wish to Cyprus Dividedhide and start the whole tragedy of Cyprus from “year zero 1974” and think nothing of missing 1963-74 and jump back to “Ottoman injustice”, “Colonial divide and rule”.

In order for us all to move forward an acknowledgement of wrongdoing by all sides needs to be made. Selective history, much less selective propaganda and indoctrination of young people in the education system does not create a future generation of balanced well meaning youth who will soon be in a position to be the decision makers in Cyprus.

In the final analysis the property dispute seems to be a key element in any final settlement. This however will never be settled to the satisfaction of both sides. A spirit of compromise needs to take the place of entrenched ideas that have prolonged this timeless dispute. Time is against the homeowners, politicians however seem more concerned with scoring political points as opposed to tangible results to end this dispute once and for all, But alas where is the creativity of diplomatic finesse.

Transfer of property from the Turkish to the Greek community:

Year Donums Price per Donum
£ s d
1898-1899 1,850 0 16 0
1899-1900 1,500 1 2 0
1901-1902 2,200 0 9 6
1901-1902 1,200 0 3 6
1904-1905 1,300
1905-1920 20,000
1921 1,064 0 5 5
1921 686
1922 1,103 0 3 5
1922 1,150 0 11 2
1924 375 0 4 6
1924 213 2 10 4
1928 269 0 6 0
1928 120 0 13 0
1929 1,295 0 11 0
1929 1,000 1 2 9
1930 1,545 0 11 0
1930 270 0 7 4
                                  36,840  donums

9 replies »

  1. Fascinating article. Thank you. Although, I am surprised to see that 1923 isn’t included, because it was in this year that the Greek/Turkish Population exchange took place and thousands and thousands of Pontic Greeks were transported to Cyprus.

    • Thank you for your comment. Ultimately The information given is what has been found. There is still much that needs to be researched. If and when it becomes available then no doubt another article can be written..

  2. Congratulations Ismail Veli . Excellent well researched article . Have you researched Evkaf situation as well ? Dr Nazim Beratli has written series of very informative articles in Kibris Postasi in the last week . It will be interesting to document how much land has been transferred by the British to the Greek Cypriots and themselves. Do you have information in this regard?

  3. Thank you all for your comments. A friend is currently researching the Evkaf lands. I do have records of the size of Evkav land from the 1831 to the early 1900s. I don’t feel I have the necessary expertise on that situation as the circumstances are more intricate. I feel Nazim Beratli and a few others are more qualified in that field. In time I’m sure we shall all be better informed.

  4. Excellent article and published with exquisite timing too, given the shape of the ‘talks’ at this juncture. Of course, we have to look at where we place our bench mark before beginning our historical survey. For example, previous to August 1571, how much land was owned by Turkish Cypriots? Was it not the invading Ottoman’s who made the land grab then just as previous invaders have throughout all time! Moving our bench mark to August 1974 when the Turkish intervention forces halted the Attila 2 operation (having over-extended supply lines) it was a pity they were then ordered to pull back to what is now the border between north and south, for had they established a permanent position then, the discussions today would be of a very different flavour, if even a topic of discourse at all!

    I am strongly of the view, that a single sovereignty based settlement as desired by the ‘dark-side’ is a complete non-starter and that with minor border adjustments (Maras etc) and the opening of port access (which must include direct flights to Ercan) being agreed, any such settlement must be a two-state island with full trading relations established without restriction. Only then should Ankara consider down-grading the otherwise permanent garrison of the TSK.

  5. Very interesting facts Ismail Veli. I beileve Dr Ata Atun has done vast amount of work on this, specially on Vakif’s like Abdullah Pasa Vakfi. I am sure he will be delighted to shed some light to this artical as well as joining forces or exchanging ideas maybe.

  6. Thank you Isik bey. I follow Dr Atun’s work and have a lot of respect for him. I have learned a lot from reading his articles. Together with Nazim Beratli and Taner Erginel they are I believe among the most qualified researchers into the Vakif and property issues in the TRNC. I am trying to raise awareness to English readers. Not much that I can add to their expertise and knowledge on this subject.

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